During the weekend of the European Championships round at PFI several members of the press were invited to try the proposed new direct drive engine that the CIK are planning to introduce to replace the existing KF Junior and Senior products.
The engine is similar in that it is currently 125cc with an exhaust gas operated Power Valve. However the engine differs in several fundamental areas. It has no clutch, no internal water pump and no complicated wiring harness. In simple terms the crankshaft has an ignition on one end and a sprocket on the other.
Starting the engine is by pushing, there is a decompressor on the cylinder head that releases automatically, creating compression and thereby combustion.
There were six Karts available, two each from Mad Croc, Birel ART and Tonykart there were equipped with engines TM, Parilla and Vortex respectively.
Many of the works mechanics were bump starting the Karts in the old fashioned way, those that chose to use the decompressor found that the rolling resistance of the Kart was too great for just one pusher. A couple of drivers did spin and were not able to restart even with a push from the marshals. In my session one Kart failed to start.
We were only allowed two full laps each, I had forgotten what it was like to drive on grip but improved enough to get an impression of the engine. Mine was very rich at low RPM, I am sure the mechanic had set the Carb for safety and it was certainly not my job to start adjusting the jets. When it cleared, the engine had very strong mid-range power, the rev limiter has been softened, maybe it was the rich Carburettor settings but the limiter was hardly noticeable. I suspect the engine would rev on more with leaner settings.
All the engines performed without fault but the journalists could hardly be described as running at racing speed.
Last week at the Le Mans 24 hour there were 4 teams running the “Experimental” engines, they all suffered from engine failure and only one of the four finished the race. They were fast but fragile, again the best re-starts were bump starts with a couple of good strong pushers. The drivers could not re-start themselves without help.
The KF engines are no longer unreliable, the wiring needs to be simplified as does the ignition. If this approach was adopted along with the removal of the Power Valve then the classes can survive, however to believe that an new engine concept can bring the top classes back to mainstream National level racing is no more than a pipe dream…. Dream on CIK. You always get it wrong, why don’t you surprise us all and get it right for a change.